How To Get Better At Cycling Uphill


Time to read 3 min

Let’s be honest, there’s nothing easy about riding up a hill on a bike. And maybe you’ve even secretly thought to yourself, while climbing and cursing uphill, that getting off your bike and pushing it up would be way quicker and easier. Truth is, you wouldn’t have been wrong. The basic laws of physics dictate that, the minute you introduce any degree of slope cycling efficiency as compared to walking slows way down. And in some instances as the incline gets steeper you might find yourself actually being passed by a walker.

In the lofty world of cycling though, dismounting your bike to walk it uphill is considered a very big no-no. Not that the best of the best haven’t been reduced to such humbling lows before. It’s even happened in some of the most esteemed cycling races, like the Tirreno Adriatico, also known as the Race of the Two Seas with an infamous 30% incline at the finish of one of the stages. 

But social mores and opinions aside, as cyclists we put ourselves through the gruelling challenge of cycling up hills, mountains, inclines worthy of heart arrest because it is simply one of the greatest ways to push our limits. There is also nothing quite like the payoff of an excruciating climb. To stand from a new vantage point, looking down at what you have just conquered. That is bliss. So the first step in climbing hills is recognizing that it will never be easy. That would defeat the point. Luckily though, there are ways to make it easier on our bodies - and minds. We’ve put together some simple (and surprising) tips to help you conquer your next uphill ride.

Tips to Cycling Uphill

  1. Go wide on corners to avoid the steepest apex, or the hardest section. However, only take corners wide if the road and traffic conditions allow. Safety first!
  2. Don’t get caught in the wrong gear the original sin of hill climbing. Prepare by down gearing before crunching uphill.
  3. Center your weight over your bicycle. Make sure to not lean too far forward or back. You could lose traction on either tire and decrease your overall speed.
  4. Engage your core and keep your upper body still. Avoid too much unnecessary upper body movement and hence, exertion.
  5. Stay fuelled by making sure to keep replenishing your stores of energy. You’ll be burning so many calories as you climb that you don't want to get caught without enough fuel to keep going.
  6. Don’t stay in one position the whole time. Avoid body fatigue and excess pressure on your bottom or shoulders by mixing up riding positions. That means, switching from riding out of the saddle to seated. And even changing your hand positions from the drops, the tops, and if you’re bold enough, the hoods.
  7. Then, consider this: It’s all in your head. Hills are not harder than flats. It’s a bit of twisted logic, but the truth bears stating: the only difference is that going up a hill means slower speed for the same energy output as on a flat. It's all about perceived effort, which you can do some psychological trickery to subdue in your favour as you climb.
  8. Lastly, Walking is not a failure! If you do have to dismount and walk, then consider the wise words of British cyclist Chris Boardman, Olympic gold medalist and Tour de France rider:

    Failure is a subjective term: is it a fail if you have to get off and walk up a hill? Or a win because you’ve bitten off more than you can chew and are doing it anyway? I tend to lean heavily towards the latter. …Having to walk just means, a) you learned something about bikes, or b) you are pushing yourself to do something challenging. Either way, in my book, that’s a win.

So, next time you’re cursing uphill and wondering if now would be a good time to dismount and walk, think again through these tips. The glory of cycling uphill is a payoff rarely had when riding flats. This is the pain–and the ultimate gain we seek from the sport.

Cycle Up Cypress Mountain - with our girl Linds!